In 1984 when *Emeka moved to Lagos for work, he had to leave his girlfriend *Ngozi in Enugu.
All they had were letters and the very infrequent phone call. She would sometimes receive his letters a week or two after he’d sent them.
These were dark times for long-distance relationships in Africa but somehow they powered through because love does what it does.
Today, Tobi and Ope live in Lagos, Nigeria and Norwich, UK respectively and they spend hours on Facetime talking about everything there is to talk about in real-time.
Technology has made an immense contribution to how we have connected as people. It’s helped our businesses, our crafts, our health, and our love.
I spoke to a few African couples who are in long-distance relationships to find out how they have used tech to nurture their love lives/relationships.
So without much ado, with the help of these amazing couples, here’s TechCabal’s guide to loving your lover from afar.
Oratile* lives in Botswana and her husband Bulelani* lives in South Africa. They’ve been married for 4 years and before that, dated for seven – most of this time they were apart. They first met in 2006 and the calls that kept them connected at the time were expensive.
Now, they spend hours of their day on calls to each other because unlike in 2006, they no longer need to worry about how long their calls are.
This is the same reason Odo, who lives in Accra, calls Ama, in Nairobi, and they both work with Facetime on.
Calls of any kind have been instrumental in keeping LDRs alive and well. There’s something about the small glimpses and the rundown at the end of the day that reassures both parties.
Couples have a myriad of choices when it comes to calls these days. For most of the earlier parts of the pandemic, Ayo* (Accra) and Amara* (Lagos) used Houseparty for their video calls.
When Ope and Tobi got tired of using Google Duo and Skype for their video calls, Tobi got Ope an iPhone because he really just wanted to be able to Facetime her.
“Please, send that to me”
Where there might not be a lot of time to be on calls for hours, social media presents long-distance couples with the opportunity to share things via text or any other platform.
One of the couples I spoke to have a very interesting tradition. Kemi lives in Mauritius and her boyfriend Yomi lives in Lagos. They often share Pinterest links of meanings of unique words that they find interesting. I asked for a sample and I got this:
“A love returned in full.”
That sets the tone for what texts and social media give to couples. A chance to constantly share things with your partner and receive as well. Opening your phone to find that the moment they saw something adorable or darn right insane, you were their first thought.
But beyond the cute posts, these couples listed everything from memes to iMessage games. They are constantly texting; receiving and returning love.
“Let’s have Movie Night”
This was one of the least popular activities for some of our couples and you may be able to guess why.
Apart from the cost of broadband in Africa, network operators often provide very shoddy internet speeds.
Ayo and Amara would rather not bother with the buffering that comes with streaming in Lagos and Accra so they have Facetime date nights where they listen to albums.
Tobi and Ope use Netflix Party, a Google Chrome extension that allows you to watch Netflix with other people. The extension also comes with the ability to chat so that when you watch Malcolm and Marie, you can adequately type out your reactions.
Odo and Ama opt for jumping on a Google Meet call and sharing screens of their movie like you would a presentation.
With all the couples, one thing was common – they all felt tech was taking a little too long with inventing teleportation.
And while I couldn’t help them in that regard. I did want to find out what other ways technology could – realistically – help them.
Amara hates that she is unable to get easy access to vendors in the Cape Coast where Ayo lives and works.
Wonu*, who lives in America, sent her boyfriend Mayowa* a care package while he was deployed in Iraq but it took too long to get to him.
Tobi and Amara use the same network provider and they both just want their service to get better. These blurry Facetime calls are really not helping anybody.
So to the lovers about to leave each other and the ones already living apart from their partners, we care about you here at TechCabal and want your love to grow.
We hope you find our tips useful. Have a great Valentine’s Day.
*Names changed on request of the interviewees